Greenpeace letter to Environment Minister Kent

Page - May 24, 2011
Greenpeace letter to Environment Minister Kent

The Honourable Peter Kent
Minister of the Environment
The Federal Government of Canada
351 St. Joseph Boulevard
Place Vincent Massey, 8th Floor
Gatineau, Quebec
K1A 0H3

Dear Mr. Kent,

I am writing to inquire about the recent conversations that the Canadian Ministry of the Environment had with Greenland Authorities, regarding the Cairn EIA process to obtain a license for oil exploration and well drilling, west of Greenland.

I understand the existing licenses for drilling were given during 2009/2010 and that there are three to four license holders for each "block", but that Cairn has the operating license. The current EIA provides for a total of four exploratory drillings in four different blocks - all in west Greenland.

As I believe you are aware, the Espoo Convention, Canada-Denmark Agreement, and the Arctic Council’s Guidelines for Environmental Impact Assessment in the Arctic all outline the requirement that Greenland assess the potential risk of adverse trans-boundary impacts from the proposed Cairn wells.

The Espoo Convention contains internationally agreed upon EIA standards and procedures. It defines EIA as “national procedure for evaluating the likely impact of a proposed activity on the environment. A proposed activity is defined as “any activity or any major change to an activity subject to a decision of a competent authority in accordance with an applicable national procedure. Appendix 1 contains a list of activities and offshore hydrocarbon production.

We know that in the case of an oil spill, two-thirds of the oil would remain on the surface for at least 60 days; that oil would almost certainly reach the Canadian coast and that an oil spill contingency in a trans-boundary context has been discussed.  That information is according to Cairn, based on the modeling results between Canadian and Greenlandic authorities.

We are very concerned about the current modeling, since the amount of oil they used for their model is very low (only one-tenth of the Deepwater Horizon spill, and only one-fifth of a Norwegian spill model).  Further, Cairn has not modeled how oil will react with ice - even though there is a fair risk of the oil reaching ice.

This means that an oil spill from these drills will affect the East Coast of Canada.

According to Cairn and the Greenland Government, an oil spill emergency contingency plan has been produced, but this has not been made available for public scrutiny. The same was the case during last year’s Greenlandic Baffin Bay drilling program

Therefore, we would like to know what type of modeling was discussed between our Canadian representative and Greenland authorities.  We would also like to know what specific measures Greenland and Cairn are taking to ensure that an oil spill will not affect Canada’s Coast.  Further, would you please inform us if those measures are different from the current proposal in the Cairn EIA.

I would like to express our deep concern about the Greenland EIA process.

I look forward to hearing from you about how the Canadian Government will ensure that no harm will be caused to our Coast line, the people who live there, or the many species whose lives depend on this bio-diverse area.


Yossi Cadan
Campaigns Director
Greenpeace Canada